Compare and contrast Unilineal Cultural Evolution Theory with Historical Particularism. Explain each theory, the anthropologists associated with them, their research methods, and what, if any,...
Compare and contrast Unilineal Cultural Evolution Theory with Historical Particularism. Explain each theory, the anthropologists associated with them, their research methods, and what, if any, flaws these theories have.
Unilinear Cultural Evolution Theory, popular through the nineteenth century, is the idea that all societies progress along the same general timeline: cultures start off as primitive groups (nomadic hunter-gatherers) and develop to become civilized communities (technological, literate, and rooted in a permanent location). This was an amalgamation of many anthropologists’ perspectives of the day, including those of Lewis Henry Morgan and Edward B. Tylor.
One problem with this was that the researchers were judging all societies by their own western European ideals of civilization, which (they believed) had reached its pinnacle with the ancient Greek and Roman societies and that society began to decline thereafter. They assumed that the progress of social evolution could be compared to Darwin’s theory of biological evolution: simple structures naturally become more complex.
Historical Particularism, introduced by Franz Boaz in the twentieth century, suggests that we can’t judge every society’s development by one standard. Geography, climate, regional history, and individual behavior all play a role in how a society develops and how unique communities could define “civilization.”
The Unilinear theory relied on second-hand information about different cultures, such as reports from traveling missionaries and merchants. Boaz felt that first-hand field work was necessary to really understand how individual cultures develop.
Visit the links below for more information about each theory, its proponents, and their methods.